Two Song Has Gregory Peck
Recently, on August 16th, three Pecks became a bushel. On that date, the happy little threesome of Gregory, Greta and small Jonathan was increased to a foursome by the arrival of one Stephen Joseph Peck, weight seven pounds, six ounces.
Currently, it can be reported that both father and child are doing fine. Although unconcerned with mathematical equations, the fourth Peck has added two pounds, three ounces and a tolerant attitude toward the various grown-ups who stand over his crib and make childish, clucking noises. Someday, maybe about twelve years from now, young Stephen may want to put up his fists to anyone who reminds him that his name was originally Stephanie and was changed only when the doctor announced he was not the kind of Peck who could properly go around answering to such a moniker. At present, however, small-dark-and-handsome keeps his fists in his mouth and just ain’t talkin’. The same cannot be said of his old man:
“The difference between a onetime parent and a two-time parent,” says Greg smugly, “is that the first guy is a rank amateur.”
It is a well-known fact that the first time, Greg was the most nervous prospective papa in all Hollywood. This time, of course, he knew the fifteen miles from the Peck’s Coldwater Canyon home to the hospital by heart.
“It was about four o’clock in the morning when Greta said we’d better get over to the hospital,” he says. “I took the wheel, calm and collected, which comes from being an old hand at that sort of thing. Of course nobody had told me about the detour we were going to run into. I’m glad that didn’t happen to me the first time, I would have fainted. This time I only turned green and started to pray—”
There have been various helps suggested for the husbands who wear out carpets in waiting rooms. “I suggest bigger and better ashtrays, untearable collars and indestructible shaves—” says Greg, now an authority. “The first time, I had the place all to myself. This time, I walked in and there were about eight other fellows—a collection of sad sacks, believe me. Collars askew, whiskers on their chins, knee-deep in old cigarette butts—some of them had been there all night. I couldn’t help feel superior when, after just one long hour, the nurse called out my name and said, ‘It’s a boy!’ Darned if I didn’t feel those other fellows had something to learn about efficiency!”
The news that they were about to add on a Peck came as a surprise to both parents from the lips of a radio columnist. “The Gregory Pecks,” he itemed, “will soon welcome a second offspring.”
“My mouth really fell open,” Greta said afterward, “because actually, I wasn’t sure myself. All—absolutely all—I’d done about it was to call a doctor and make an appointment for a consultation. Greg looked amused for a minute, then quizzical, then he jumped. ‘True?’ he asked. ‘I—I guess so,’ I stammered. ‘Gee, thanks!’ he said, taking my hand and being the first to congratulate me!”
After which, feeling the columnist to be a fairly reliable fellow, her husband immediately got busy cancelling an impending vacation trip: “His first vacation in three years—I really felt pretty mean about making him miss it—” said his wife at the time. “We’d planned to go to a quiet little desert resort we both love and do a lot of riding and swimming. Instead, Greg spent his vacation building a guest-apartment over the garage we’d previously talked about. He was very cheerful about it, whistling and splattering plaster and paint all over himself all day long.”
The interim, running its usual course of nine months, gave the incipient daddy plenty of time to prepare himself. There was “Duel in the Sun” to finish for Selznick, and “The Macomber Affair” to be made for Ben Bogeaus Productions. Both films had a lot of location shooting, but within airplane distance of Hollywood. Weekends he kept busy winging his way home from New Mexico and other points—weekdays he developed a habit of looking his fellow-filmers straight in the eye and saying, “I’m not going to be as scared as I was the first time I saw Jonathan—this time I’ll know they’re supposed to be purple!”
The new attitude paid off in a really tangible way. After Jonathan, it was a couple of weeks before he could be said to have properly recovered his strength. After Stephen, he waited only four days to move in a large camera, complete with lights and other equipment for photographing the baby and Greta.
“It hadn’t been done at the hospital before,” says Greta. “I don’t know how he talked them into it. We had to sign a release, in case anything went wrong, and he had to photograph the baby through the glass window. While he was at it, he took a picture for another father. It turned out fine and the man was so happy he sent our baby a beautiful silver cup.”
Being the wife of a screen hero has its advantages in hospitals as in other places: “I tried to think it was because I was such a pleasant patient that the nurses liked to do things for me. But I couldn’t help noticing that the extra attention always began just a few minutes before visiting hour.”
All in all, young Stephen Joseph Peck can easily be said to be one of the most astute newcomers to the movie coast. He couldn’t have made a smarter choice of parents—a dad who’s walking proof that movie stars arehuman, a mother who’s cute and gay enough to be hung on a Christmas tree. Nor could he have picked a happier, more normal home for little boys to be raised in. The Pecks green-set canyon cottage is lovely, but not lavish.
The nursery is set right at the front of the house. It is possible that Stephen was greeted by brother Jonathan, who spends a good part of his time laughing and chattering out the front window. Jonathan is two years old, with dancing dark eyes and very pink cheeks. He wears, by heroic effort on the part of his nurse, a spanking-white playsuit and a sparkling scrubbed look. A major portion of his chatter is directed at another front-porch greeter, Perry, the police dog. Perry is the color and size of a slightly scaled down polar bear, and since he recently became a father himself, as gentle with kids as a kitten. An easily-proved comparison, because also a member of the Peck menage is a kitten, also pure white except for a hind leg which is bright blue.
“She jumped up on the desk and spilled a bottle of ink,” explains Greg. “Seems like we never have sense enough to acquire stainless animals.”
“We haven’t any special theories on child-raising,” says Greta. “Once in a while we read something that sounds good—or listen with an open mind to some friend’s new method.” The last time this occurred, the friend’s method consisted of allowing his child to do anything it wanted to. The new theory was too effective—the Pecks were forced to abandon it when, in one short evening, Jonathan developed into a full-fledged house-wrecker.
Greta, from a large family of brothers and sisters, wants to give her youngsters the same happy kind of Christmases she herself enjoyed. “More than anything I remember that Christmas Eve was the one night in the year when we were allowed to stay up until midnight. It always seems such a shame to send kids off to bed with all that excitement in the air. I let Jonathan stay up late for his very first Christmas—I didn’t think he was too young to start enjoying it.”
He wasn’t. When midnight came, however, Papa and Mama Peck, also Grandma and Grandpa Peck, were all asleep in their chairs. As nurse trundled them off to bed, Jonathan was still happily banging you-know-what out of his new toys.
The young man’s welcome to brother Stephen was as enthusiastic as might be expected of him. On the baby’s first day home, when the nurse left them alone a few minutes, Greta gave a peek into the nursery and then a scream, for there was Stephen buried under a cribful of toys. “Fire-engines, blocks, iron piggy banks, everything—Jonathan had simply thrown them in on him. Stephen was lying without a sound. We thought he’d been knocked dead. Somehow the boys seemed to understand each other, however. Seems Stephen knew that was just his brother’s way of saying ‘Hello!’ ”
The biggest “kick” the Pecks have realized as parents occurred on the occasion when Jonathan first said “No!” “It surprised us so,” says Greta. “Actually he’s a very tractable child. We told him to put something down and expected he’d do it. Instead, he looked at us calmly and said ‘No!’” Outside of the fact that “No” is a word rarely attributed to born-Hollywoodians, his Dad thought it had other indications. “It proves the kid has character—even if we can’t encourage him in it.”
Otherwise, Greg is not a prejudiced father. Just recently, says his wife, he sat staring at Jonathan with a puzzled look. Suddenly, “I wonder if he really is a good-looking kid,” he burst out, “or is it just our own idea? Come to think of it, I can’t recall anyone looking at him and saying, ‘There’s a handsome child!’ ”
Both Jonathan and Stephen give unmistakable evidence of growing into reasonable facsimiles of Greg, which gives him a new worry; “Gee, I hate to think of their going through the same gangly, skinny stage I did—makes it awkward when you’re on the beach and all the gals keep chasing the big-chested guys.”
During this last season’s summer-stock session at Cape Cod, Peck haunted the antique shops and came home with two crates full of unusual old-time toys. Two boxes, because after he had bought a pile for Jonathan, he remembered the impending enlargement of their nursery roster. Currently the boys have duplicate bank accounts and, as nearly as possible, they’ll get duplicate raising.
Someday, after he’s entirely recovered from having child No. 2 and after Greta has “had herself a slight vacation,” they may again make plans for a little daughter. When they can think up another feminine name to go with Peck, that is.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1947